I realized that I’ve never actually shared many of my stories on here, whether they were previously published or rough drafts. So, I thought I’d share one that I’m quite proud of! I wrote it for my Creative NonFiction class at Oakland University, and later had it published in Echo Cognitio’s 2016 Edition.
Also, I apologize for the formatting. This site isn’t the best for proper indentation or paragraph breaks.
The sound of metal scraping against concrete is far from pleasant. It’s worse than nails on a chalkboard or a baby crying. My boyfriend’s 1998 Dodge Neon is currently making those agonizing sounds. It’s jerking about, vibrating, as its massive steel girth drags against the ground. The engine sputters and the purple body of the car shakes more aggressively. With a jolt, something is torn away. I look in the passenger side mirror to see what has broken off, but I can’t see anything. It’s after midnight and there are no lights to illuminate the freeway.
“Eddie, get off at the next exit,” I say. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a command. My hands are gripping the seat, the door, the dashboard; anything I can hold onto. In my head, all I can imagine is the engine exploding, the brakes failing, or the tires blowing out.
As Eddie gets off M-59 at the Dequindre exit, the car gives one last jerk of life before completely stalling out. We coast to a rough stop, the breaks indeed failing, at the red light. Eddie turns the key and tries to start the car. A dull clicking noise — a flat-line in car language — is our only response. Eddie curses loudly and bangs his palms on the wheel. He turns on the hazard lights before we step out of the car and open up the hood. Smoke billows out. Just our luck.
“I just bought this damn thing,” he grumbles angrily.
“At least you didn’t waste any extra money on buying a new muffler,” I add.
After his first car, a hand-me down green Taurus from his grandpa, kicked the bucket and went to the car lot in the sky, Eddie got the Neon. He had found it on Craigslist and bought it from a guy he met at a gas station near the freeway. Not the most ideal situation, but it was the only option he had. After a test drive and $800, the car was his. It turned out to be a lemon.
The only place to get a good used car is at one of the hundreds of used car shops that litter Metro Detroit. With so many cars being manufactured, it’s not hard to find a car that runs. Finding one that it’s a college kid’s rice range is the difficult part.
We stand outside the car, hugging each other to keep warm. Cars zoom past as they come off the freeway. Only two people stop to ask if we’re all right. We reply sullenly that we’re fine. They leave without offering any more help. What else could we expect? When traffic — oddly busy at this time of night — dies down, we start to push the carcass of Eddie’s car down the road.
Even though we live in Metro Detroit, in the heart of Automobile Country, there are no car repair shops lining this strip of road. Again, our luck has run out. We settle for a Hospital parking lot.
As we sit in silence, waiting for Eddie’s dad to pick us up, I wonder if this is how my mom feels.
My mom has horrible luck when it comes to cars. Every car she has ever owned has broken down on her at least once. It never mattered if it was brand new, like her silver Kia Rio, or a used car from a friend of the family, like her red Pontiac Firebird.
“I’m glad this didn’t happen when either of you were alone,” she says when I call her to let her know why we’ll be home later than expected. Mom always seemed to be alone when her cars broke down.